So, this morning I read on the strange, wonderful, time-guzzling Twittosphere that India Knight’s latest book, seasonally entitled Comfort and Joy, is published today.
Great, I think. This is good, happy news. Good for her because….well, because kerching! obviously, and good for me because I like her writing, I enjoyed her previous books, and it’s therefore a safe bet that I’ll like this one too.
By happy coincidence I read this bookish news while sitting in the café of my local book shop, pretending to do very important and busy work….just like all the other furrowed writers and students I see similarly hunched over their laptops. Here we all are, supposedly penning (or rather typing – who pens anything apart from shopping lists these days??) the next award-winning chapter/dissertation/article, but really we’re just shamelessly saving on central heating, social networking with two-dimensional ‘friends’ and hoping to meet someone sexy and interesting – and three-dimensional – to share our caffeine with.
How perfect this is: a book is published today that I want to read, and I’m in a bookshop.
Cripes, could it BE any easier to purchase a copy of this novel?? I decide to do so forthwith.
Heaving my arse from its perma-pancake-position on my chair (yes, it is MY chair now, and nobody else is allowed to even think about sitting on it. If they do, I stare them out with slanty, Chair Death eyes until they scuttle away) I walk over to the Paying Place Thingy in order to be one of the very first, happy people to purchase a copy.
At least, that was my plan.
“Hi, do you have a copy of India Knight’s new novel please?”
“India Knight’s new novel, Comfort and Joy. It’s published today – do you have a copy?”
Pause. Assistant, wearing a T-shirt that optimistically says ‘Christmas Helper’ on it, looks at me as though I’m asking to buy an autistic camel.
“Ummmm, I’m not sure.”
“Well, do you think you might be able to check?” Say, by typing the name into the computer that’s smack bang in front of you, and holds this kind of fairly useful bookshop-ish information.
“Oh, OK. Who is it by again?”
“Knight.” One of our best-known journalists, author of several best-selling books, Sunday Times columnist. Not, amazingly enough, India Knight, the one-legged lady from Norwich who knits egg cosies.
“Night, like ‘day’?”
“No, like ‘round table’.”
“It’s with a ‘k’. Like a knight in shining armour.” Only she’s probably in Zara, not chainmail.
Christmas Helper types a few letters into keyboard.
“Hmmmm, OK. What’s the first name again?”
“India.” I say this firmly, as am getting a tad annoyed now. I do this – get annoyed. Especially when people are being completely fucking useless at their jobs.
“Is that India, like the country?”
NO, like the sexually transmitted infection.
“Yes, like the country. I-N-D-”
“I know how to spell India.”
“Good. So, do you have a copy of Comfort and Joy?”
“The Thrift Book?”
“No. Sounds very similar, I agree, but that was her last book, published over a year ago. She’s been a busy bee and written another one since then. Some fiendishly clever writers do that. This latest one is called Comfort, as in being comfortable, and Joy as in what I am currently not experiencing.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t see it on the system.”
“So you don’t have a copy?”
“Even though it’s published today. And this is a big bookshop. And it’s nearly Christmas.”
“Well, how are you, or Ms Knight, going to make any money if you don’t stock it?”
“Um, I don’t know. I just know we don’t have it.”
“OK. Fine. Well, could I order one please?”
“Because it’s not on the system.”
“But, the book exists. It was reviewed in the Evening Standard today. She said so. I’m pretty sure she’s not lying. She seems very nice. In her profile picture she has shiny, honest hair.”
“Yes, but we don’t have it on the system.”
“So that’s it then?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“It’s not on the system, so I can’t buy it here.”
“Yes, but you can buy The Thrift Book.”
“It’s fine. I have that one. Thanks anyway.”
“That’s OK. Have a good day!”
Somehow this seems less likely by the second….
And so there it is. India, I tried. I really, really did. But I think it’ll be a few more days until whichever box it is that contains your beautiful new books is unpacked and its contents displayed on the shelves round here.
The only consolation (though only to myself) is that this time it’s not MY book that’s missing. I remember on my publication days running into every bookshop I passed and looking excitedly to see a copy of my latest book on the shelf….only to be disappointed nine times out of ten, and be forced to retreat to the toilets for a good, snotty cry.
OK, admittedly my books aren’t QUITE on the same level of literary brilliance or public awareness as a Sunday Times columnist’s, and they all have titles that make you want to gouge your eyeballs out with a pickle-picker, and even more wince-inducing covers, but still….they’re my books, I’m proud of most of their contents and I rather hoped people might be able to, you know….buy them in the shops from the date of publication.
How naïve I was.
I shall wait for my copy of Comfort and Joy. Maybe by this weekend I’ll get lucky…